Blast of winter brings frost quakes, bus cancellations and school closures
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Blast of winter brings frost quakes, bus cancellations and school closures

Sleeping in then bundling up, Conestogo’s Charlotte Muller, 6, spent a day with mom during the region-wide snow day on Tuesday. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]

“I was sitting in my family room – it was 3:45 a.m., I had fallen asleep on the couch – when suddenly, I was awoken as the whole house shook, along with a loud booming, cracking noise. About 10 minutes later, the same thing happened again!”

Carla Muller bundled up and stepped out of her Conestogo home and into Tuesday’s snowstorm to see the damage.

Sleeping in then bundling up, Conestogo’s Charlotte Muller, 6, spent a day with mom during the region-wide snow day on Tuesday. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Sleeping in then bundling up, Conestogo’s Charlotte Muller, 6, spent a day with mom during the region-wide snow day on Tuesday. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
“After checking that our house had not been hit by a fallen tree, and that our deck wasn’t falling off of the house, I was actually wondering if the house had cracked somehow with the extreme cold, or if there was an earthquake that could have been caused by the same.”

What Muller heard was a frost quake or cryoseism, a phenomenon reported across Waterloo Region, Wellington County and other parts of southern Ontario as a result of water in the ground freezing and forming cracks in the soil and rock. It’s the same harsh weather that’s kept Muller’s daughter and kids from across the region home from school on Tuesday, the second region-wide snow day in five years.

“I thought, I can’t send my kids to school in this,” Muller said of the storm.

Both Waterloo Region and Waterloo Catholic district school boards have already declared bus cancellations this winter for various rural schools.

An abundance of snow days where the entire school board is shut down is unlikely, though that is an issue in snowier areas of the province, said WCDSB director of education John Shewchuck.

In the region, however, teachers usually manage to give individual help to students missing school due to bus cancellations.

“It’s a lot easier for teachers to work individually with students to catch them back up,” he said this week.

Shewchuck added students would have to miss up to 15-20 days of school for snow days to become an issue.

Buses heading to rural schools are the biggest concern, and routes can be cancelled due to blowing snow, fog or icy roadways. Student Transportation Services of Waterloo Region contract out buses for both Waterloo Catholic and public school boards. When weather gets rough bus drivers will run test drives of their routes to see if roads are safe and report back. If the roads are a no-go, the boards’ directors decide on a course of action in the morning and try to make a decision on cancellations by about 6:15 a.m.

St. Agatha Catholic School is the only school to close completely when buses don’t run.

Given the prognosis for a “real Canadian winter” this year, will the tots be looking forward to more snow days?

“We may have a couple more, I don’t know. It could turn really nice tomorrow too and stay nice until the spring. It’s really hard to predict, I don’t anticipate too many more.”

Muller hopes harsh weather keeps kids and teachers inside for their safety even if it means losing a few days of school.

“I understand [snow days] can accumulate but I’d rather have [the kids] home safe. I think we have a situation where we have all of these kids and parents are depending on the schools for day care, which you didn’t see back in my days. Now there’s this added pressure: what are you going to do if you can’t get your kids to school? I’d rather see an extra week in the summer if I have to.”

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